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Escape Velocity

An Intuitive Place: Yvette Interviewed
Suzie McCracken , May 29th, 2014 03:19

With the bludgeoning guitar noise of their debut album Process out this month, Suzie McCracken catches up with Brooklyn duo Yvette to discover how they've channeled present-day societal dread into music that pummels like a breezeblock

Photo by Daniel Roland Tierney

For two people, Brooklyn duo Yvette make a lot of noise. Listening to their album Process, which came out at the start of May via Tough Love, places you inside a brutalist blockhouse, perched on a cliff, overlooking a burned-out landscape. Of course, you can't see your post-apocalyptic surroundings from inside your concrete echo chamber. But you know it's there. And even though you can feel the crushing presence of nothing outside, you still punch your fist in the air. Because there's euphoria in the awfulness.

As you can tell, it's tough to write anything about the album without sounding like a wanker, or Geoff Dyer talking about Tarkovsky. Which is why I half expected Yvette to be pretentious as hell. But they're not. At one point, while I ramble about the links between industrial music and architecture and cinema, Dale Eisinger punctures the line of questioning by saying, "Wait, are you just asking if we like art?" Which about nailed it.

There's an efficiency about Eisinger and Noah Kardos-Fein. Cutting through the bullshit with a crap-load of guitar pedals and sweat. Their disembodied voices are warm and sarcastic. Look, they are cool guys and I like their album. I fancy them a lot. And I think it's very much in the spirit of their no-nonsense music to say so.

What sort of bands were you both in before Yvette?

Dale Eisinger: I've been in jazz trios, rock groups, noise bands, orchestras, and marching bands. Whatever you can name, I've probably played it at some point.

Noah Kardos-Fein: Yeah, I did some stupid stuff in high school and college, but nothing really interesting or notable. Then I moved to New York and was playing music with some friends and really desperately wanted to start a band. And that's kind of where this all came from.

When I heard your record for the first time I was pretty physically exhausted. I know you've got an intense live set-up with a lot of complicated aspects with numerous pedals… clearly the process feeds into the sound. Is it an exhausting experience to be onstage?

NK: Yes, it can be exhausting. I think if we're not feeling somewhat drained by the end of our set, we've probably done something wrong. The music is intended to be pretty physical and the live show is meant to match that. Something takes over me when we play live, and I'm in a different place so I'm almost at the mercy of what the music is just doing to me physically. And then there is quite a bit of choreography and planning that goes into our set because we have a lot of cues that we need to both meet at the same time. That requires a lot of moving around or hitting the right pedals at the right time, or the drums at the right time.

DE: Yeah, we played on Friday and I'm still sore. My neck really hurts. I could use a rub-down.

You have this industrial, very hard sound… but then the vocals are softer. Was that decision conscious?

NK: The music is not that calculated necessarily. Of course we spend a lot of time writing, editing and practising these songs. But they start from an intuitive place. And a lot of it comes from accidents – I'll hit a note or just happen to play a different combination of pedals, and it sounds interesting and we go with that. We let things develop as organically as possible from there. Songwriting is really instinctual; it's not like we're sitting there thinking "We need to write a song that sounds like 'Smoke On The Water'". We aim for certain feelings or emotions, or a build-up and release of tension in certain parts. It's usually about what feels right and what feels like the proper length of the song. A lot of that comes from going to so many shows and internalising what other bands do and thinking about what I don't want to do.

I can imagine what you're doing attracts a lot of intellectualising. Do people come up to you and want to have in-depth conversations about the technical side of things especially?

NK: That happens from time to time. We're both pretty big nerds about music, so for us that's a fun thing. When we played with Bo Ningen on Friday night, we were talking about pedals with them – "What effect is that?" and "How do you use that?" I think that's just a natural thing. A lot of people when they see us don't necessarily know where a certain sound is coming from. And part of the fun for me when I see other bands is that experience of not necessarily being able to figure everything out right away, and wanting to unravel the mystery of the live show a little bit by talking with someone.

Do you feel like you're part of an industrial canon? It's interesting to know whether relatively young bands feel part of a narrative like that.

NK: For us it's about finding interesting sounds and trying to work outside of the framework of straight-up guitar and drums, and trying to see how much farther you can push your instrument or how much farther you can push a noise. So I think for us it's not just about noise for noise's sake, or industrial-sounding music for industrial-sounding music's sake, but attempting to do something that's a little bit new, or a little bit exciting, or a little bit dangerous.

That's fair. It's one of those genres that's intertwined with big, monolithic and dark ideas.

NK: I think there is some fascination with apocalyptic themes with us...

Your 'Radiation' video?

NK: Yeah, there's so much in the world to be upset about and frustrated about – I think that is a part of everyday life now. It's about trying to blot out the idea that the world could very possibly end in our lifetime or in the next generation's lifetime. I've internalised that in a way, and that's something that's in the back of my head a lot.

DE: It's a part of all the music I make. It seeps into everything because you get to a position where, what can we actually talk about? We have food to eat, we have clean water to drink, we have shelter, what do we really have to complain about? What is going on with the world? How do we deal with that? How do we interact with the world that we have control over in the greater scheme of things? Environmental processes, or with the Koch brothers, or media blackout in Russia, or whatever it is - all these terrible things that you get to watch but not actually get to interact with whatsoever. How do we internalise that, deal with that, and what can we put back into the world?

NK: I guess it's trying to deal with all these external, somewhat removed things and trying to place ourselves back in the world in some way in relation to them.

That's clearly quite dark, but you guys don't seem like dark people.

DE: We know how to have fun.

NK: I like to think that there's a way out of something, but sometimes things do feel dire. I would say I'm hopeful.

There's a wonderful quote from your producer Nick about when you were recording the album. He describes the studio as a 'cursed space'.

NK: Yeah; it was this place called Silent Barn in a part of Brooklyn called Bushwick. It's a part performance space, part kind of work and office space. There's a barber shop, and a record store in the barber shop called Deep Cuts.

I feel like you guys are like satirising what people might think of a Brooklyn studio.

DE: Ha, yeah. This is all true.

NK: It used to be an auto-garage. At the time we were recording they were just starting to move in. We got in there and it was an empty, cold garage with not much in it. There were all kinds of weird things that happened with the equipment – like it would be so cold that my pedals started malfunctioning at times. There were creatures living in there, a mouse in the garbage. So it felt like the right place to record. There was a lot of concrete and musty smells.

Would you worry about being too comfortable somewhere?

NK: Absolutely. The music can be a stress relief for me. And so a lot of energy of it comes from the day-to-day stress of life and of living in a city. It would feel strange to be in a nice cushy studio and on a leather couch, sitting back listening to mixes. For some reason that seems incongruous with what we're doing.

DE: I've never ever recorded in a studio like that.

Not with Persian rugs on the floor and everyone walking around barefoot?

NK: Exactly. No. Although that does sound nice. Maybe when we start to get a little more new agey, we'll see.

Have you encountered people having any expectations of you because you are a Brooklyn band?

NK: I think there's a history of music in New York, and inevitably we can't avoid being part of that, in a way. There are a lot of bands that have come out of New York that have influenced us or we look up to –

Like who?

NK: Oh, man. Like a lot of the no wave stuff that happened in the 80s – DNA, Mars, Liquid Liquid...

DE: Suicide.

NK: Suicide, yeah. A lot of older bands. But also a lot of bands that are not much older than us, like Oneida and Ex Models.

DE: Because we are from Brooklyn, we don't have to cater to anyone's expectations. We can do whatever we want. There's like an avenue for everything here; and I don't think anybody expected any of those would change how we do things.

You were saying earlier about how things can happen accidentally when you're playing, and it can spark something. On the other side of that, how often does that mean everything falls apart?

NK: Our equipment falls apart sometimes. There's so many things plugged in that, yeah, we'll often run into problems with that. But musically, we try not to let things fall apart live.

DE: No, we don't let things fall apart live. We're really good at being quick on our feet if some equipment fails or something. And we're familiar enough with our gear that if one thing breaks I've been able to improvise with another piece of gear, that sounds similar enough to the original noise that we should be making. I mean, we're really meticulous with the sounds we make but at some point you have to able to recover from disaster.

NK: It's never fun if it's not spontaneous or if it doesn't feel spontaneous. To an extent it needs to feel like there's the potential for things to fall apart. And with us you never know, because it is totally live. We don't have any backing tracks, we're pretty adamantly against using a computer or anything like that live, so there's always that possibility that something could go wrong.

I can't imagine what the crowd response to your show would be. Do they stand there and watch you, or do they find a way to move around to what's really quite a hard noise?

NK: I think people are still kind of confused by us. It's hard in New York. I think New York audiences don't really tend to move no matter what.

Yeah, that can be the case in London too.

NK: Yeah! So we're kind of used to people not moving. But it's tough to tell whether that's because they don't like you, or they don't know what's going on, or they just don't feel like moving. On Friday night there was a guy who was really drunk and was moving a lot and it was a fun game to see how far back you could push him with the noise. When it was really loud and really intense he'd be all the way in the back of the room, kind of bracing himself against the sound booth.

What do you think it will be like when you support Sleigh Bells this summer?

NK: It'll be really interesting to play to those crowds. I'm not totally sure what to expect. I just hope we don't get anything thrown at us.

DE: I've always wanted a tomato thrown at me, to be honest. Sounds like a classic gesture. If someone has the wherewithal to bring a tomato to a show, I'm all for getting hit with it.

NK: As long as it doesn't mess up the gear.

DE: Yeah; as long as it doesn't get in the circuits.

Awesome. By the way, where the fuck did the name 'Yvette' come from?

NK: We were trying to find something that wouldn't necessarily betray the music; we wanted to avoid having a 'The' in the name, or an 's' at the end. We didn't know anybody named Yvette and that seemed to be the most neutral-sounding name that we could think of. And it looked cool capitalised.

It does look cool capitalised. It's very typographically pleasing.

NK: The short answer to your question is "I don't fucking know".

When are you guys due to come to the UK next?

NK: That's a great question. We're working on it right now. Hopefully before the end of the year. We don't have anything solid yet that we can tell you but we're working on it.

I want to be the person trying to move at the front.

NK: Cool. You're gonna start the circle pit.

Yvette's album Process is out now via Tough Love